Talk excerpt: “They tried to bury us but they didn’t know that we were seeds”

  • This is part of a recent talk at Glenwood Church, Cardiff. 

    They tried to bury usI don’t really do inspirational books. Things like Chicken Soup for the Soul and feel-good stories and things like that leave me cold. I’m not a fan. So I surprised myself recently when I was in a shop and I picked up a book of ‘little inspirations’. I don’t know why I picked it up. But I opened it completely at random and I read this:

    “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know that we were seeds.”

    In the book it said it was a Mexican proverb, and it has been used among activists in Mexico who are campaigning for greater social justice, and the Zapatista movement who have taken that campaign into armed struggle against the government. But it wasn’t a Mexican proverb first – originally the idea appeared in a poem written in the 1970s by a Greek poet called Dinos Christianopoulos, who was ostracised because of his sexuality.

    But regardless where it came from it reminded me of this verse.

    “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” – John 12.24

    Do you sometimes feel buried? Sometimes I use that phrase at work. ‘Oh, I’m buried’. Or perhaps we say we’re snowed under, which is just a different thing to be buried in. Snow, instead of dirt. Or you might say you’re swamped, which is like being buried in mud. Or if we’re being more dramatic, we might say we are drowning, which is being buried in water. When we baptise people that’s partly what the water symbolises – being buried and rising again to new life.

    I think we all have that experience of being buried.

    But you are a seed.

    When you are a seed it doesn’t matter who or what is trying to bury you. It won’t stop you. If anything, it will just speed up your transformation even more.

    Sometimes we have to be buried in order to produce new life; in order to multiply; in order to become something different and bigger and new.

    So maybe you feel like you are buried. Maybe you feel like a kernel of wheat. Dry, husky, curled up on itself, surrounded by darkness. Smothered in dirt. Buried.

    It might feel like you are nothing. But you are not nothing. You are a seed.

    And generally, it’s a true fact of life, that seeds grow. Given time and the right conditions.

    You might feel you have been buried for a long time. You might wonder when your time to grow will come.

    Over ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to drive across Death Valley National Park in California. Death Valley is a desert. It has sand dunes. It has salt flats. And although it is called Death Valley there is life everywhere if you know where to look. It is an incredibly fragile eco-system, but it is there.

    One afternoon our car was stalked by a group of wild coyotes who were looking for food. At night our hotel was surrounded by gigantic bats. We saw a road runner. It wasn’t purple and it didn’t go meep meep, but it did run very fast. We saw the switch-backing tracks left behind by sidewinder snakes in the sand. There were geckos in the canyons.

    One thing I remember most from Death Valley is the stars. There was no light pollution. You could look straight up towards the edge of the universe. Just a black canopy of twinkling pinpricks of light. The smear of white down the middle of the sky – our own galaxy viewed from the inside out as the Milky Way.

    It’s no accident that so many religions start out in the desert. Just looking up is a transcendent experience.

    Death Valley was in the news recently.

    A once in a generation unseasonal rainfall – possibly an El Nino event – had led to that rarest of things: a “super bloom”. Seeds that had lain dormant for years, possibly decades were suddenly watered and energised and plants grew and quickly flowered until the grey scrub of the desert was covered in a riot of colours.

    You know, even a seed buried in a desert, if it waits long enough, will grow and bloom.

    So don’t worry if it’s been a while. Your time will come. There’s a hope that however dead you feel, you will feel the sun again, you will be watered and nourished and return to life, you will be fruitful and beautiful in your fruitfulness. You will bloom.

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